Illuminate Event Series 2017

By Emma Tatlow

Nov 02, 2017


The official countdown to the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower voyage will begin this Thanksgiving with a series of Illuminate events being held across eight destinations in the UK with links to the Mayflower Pilgrims. Each Illuminate event will include a range of events and activities including innovative light-based artworks, local choir performers and parades which reflect themes of freedom and liberty. This four nation commemoration aims to unite the nations of the UK, US, Netherlands and Native American people. The origin of the event and the light symbolism at the heart of Illuminate comes from a quote by William Bradford, one of the Mayflower Pilgrims who later became Governor of Plymouth Plantation: “‘…just as one small candle may light a thousand, so the light here kindled hath shone unto many”. Bradford’s words can be interpreted in a number of ways; as a metaphor for The Mayflower being a catalyst for the development of modern America or one candle symbolising freedom and tolerance, in the context of migration, and being inspired to achieve. There is also reference to the Native American Wampanoag people, who are sometimes referred to as ‘People of the First Light’.


In 2019, Illuminate will open the year-long anniversary programme, and the commemorations will culminate in 2020 with a final Illuminate event. The aim is that the events of Illuminate do not stop after 2020 and that Illuminate will become a traditional and annual event. Each destination will have improved and developed their ability, knowledge and expertise to deliver high quality, high spectacle, light based, artist led participatory events for years to come.

 Below is a summary of how some of the Mayflower UK destinations will take part in the Illuminate events series… 

Pilgrim Roots Illuminate Series

The Pilgrim Roots Illuminate Series will take place in the Mayflower destination associated with the beginnings or ‘roots’ of the Mayflower story - Nottinghamshire, South Yorkshire and Lincolnshire which will all be presenting a coordinated programme of Illuminate events.

Scrooby & Babworth, Nottinghamshire, 18th & 19th November 2017

A Pilgrim-inspired art exhibition will be displayed at Babworth Church and Worksop Priory. A Thanksgiving Day Dinner is planned at Spencer’s on the Square in nearby Retford on Thursday 23rd November, and a concert by Doncaster Waites at Scrooby Village Hall on Friday 24th November.

Austerfield, Doncaster, 19th November 2017

Austerfield’s Illuminate event will include a candle lighting service in St. Helena’s Church, followed by a Lantern Parade through nearby Bawtry. Spectators will also be provided with entertainment by the Phoenix Theatre and the Quirky Choir at a Civic Service in St Nicholas’ Church.

Immingham, Lincolnshire, 19th – 23rd November 2017

Immingham’s Illuminate commemorations will take place on Sunday 19th November. The event will see 170 children and young people involved with creating beautifully crafted lanterns through school and community group workshops. The parade will also be incorporated with the events for the Christmas lights switch on at Grimsby town centre, parading from the Riverhead to Grimsby Minster on 23rd November Parade from 5:30pm to 6:15pm with the big lights switch on at 7pm.

Retford, Nottinghamshire, 21st November 2017

Retford’s Illuminate commemorations will feature a parade with lanterns made in a series of workshops with local children and professional artists. The lanterns are made from willow and paper and lit with LEDs and they will be designed around a Mayflower Pilgrim theme. Watch the spectacular parade as it winds through Carolgate and around Retford Market Square. The parade will be followed by a service of thanksgiving at 18:00 at St. Swithun's Parish Church, Retford. Special Illuminate church services are scheduled to take place on the same evening as the parades, in conjunction with Bassetlaw Christian Heritage.

Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, 22nd November 2017

A parade of lanterns will light up the town of Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, to tell the story of the town’s connection to the Mayflower Pilgrims. The lantern parade will be an important part of this year's Illuminate event as it commemorates the town’s connections to the Mayflower Pilgrims, some of whom came from Lincolnshire before they sailed to America in 1620.

Boston, Lincolnshire, 23rd November 2017

Boston, Lincolnshire an historic, coastal, market town plays a key role in the story of the Mayflower Pilgrims and Illuminate Boston aims to bring that story to today’s local community. Illuminate 2017 will include innovative light based aerial dancers reflecting the themes of freedom and liberty in the historic setting of the sweeping market place in the centre of the town. Community groups and schools will participate in lantern parades, having worked with artists to produce the lanterns in advance of the festival.

Harwich, Essex, 24th November 2017

Harwich will celebrate Illuminate this Thanksgiving with a special event featuring local performers, artists and a fantastic light show. The festival of light will commence from H’apenny Pier at Harwich Quay at 6pm followed by a procession of torch bearers at 6.30pm which will make their way to St Nicholas’s Church where a Mayflower-themed service will be held. The parade will pass by the house of Christopher Jones, the skipper of the Mayflower, (who married twice at St Nicholas’ Church in 1593 and 1603) and the home of his first wife, Sara Twitt, which is now the Alma Pub. Residents in Kings Quay Street, where Jones himself lived, will be invited to put lights in their windows as the procession passes by. An art exhibition will also be displayed at the Mayflower project site, where a theme of light and local maritime views will be the focus.

Plymouth, Devon, 24th – 26th November 2017

Illuminate first began in Plymouth in 2014 with a small civic event, aligning with Thanksgiving, including a lantern parade and a small light based installation on Plymouth Hoe. Since then the event has grown into a national family-friendly event, attended by hundreds of adults and children each year. The 2017 Illuminate event will see design, art and inspiration light up the historic Royal William Yard. The four day event, which is inspired by the values of Mayflower 400 – freedom, humanity and imagination – will showcase incredible projections, light art installations, as well as food and entertainment. Illuminate aims to ‘share the light’ and inspire a sense of unity between Plymouth UK and America.



Note to editors:

2020 marks the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower voyage, one of the most influential journeys in global history and a defining moment in the shared history of Britain, the US, the Native American Nation and the Netherlands.

The anniversary provides a special opportunity to inspire people across our nations with the stories of that iconic voyage, exploring themes of migration, tolerance, freedom and democracy that have such contemporary relevance.

An exciting national and international programme, the Mayflower 400 commemorations will highlight the significance of the special relationship between our nations; transform communities, provide cultural, business and visitor links; explore the different sides of the story; and celebrate the people and places of this epic pioneering tale.

The 11 UK member destinations within the Mayflower 400 programme are:

  • Austerfield, Doncaster
  • Boston, Lincolnshire
  • Dartmouth, Devon
  • Gainsborough, Lincolnshire
  • Harwich, Essex
  • Immingham, Lincolnshire
  • Plymouth, Devon
  • Scrooby & Babworth, Nottinghamshire
  • Southwark, London
  • Southampton, Hampshire
  • Worcestershire


For further press information and images please contact:

Daniela Resenterra / Josie Self / Annabel Jenkins

020 7593 1771 / 1758 / 1770 / /

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